The Metropolitan Opera just announced that next season will consist of plotless operas of pure note singing. Not to be outdone by its rich sister, the New York City Opera announced that its season will consist of plotless operas of a single, pure note of music. Next, the New York Philharmonic, in a well-funded new pure plotless music project, announced the premiere of its new symphony entitled Fingernails Down the Chalkboard which will be performed with guest artists from Manhattan's Pinky Nail Salons. The Met Museum announced the new Single Line exhibit which will replace all of its Monets: each painting will be black and white and consist of a single pure line.
Witnesses at The New York Times report that upon reading the above off of the news wire, Alastair Macaulay strapped on his pointe shoes and performed handsprings down several flights of stairs at the Times Building on Eighth Avenue squealing, "See, see. Everyone is doing plotless. Plotless is purity. Yes, pure. Oh, how I love the word pure. It makes me feel so good to say it. Now I must quickly jete to my desk to prepare my spit on the world's great classical story ballets" and the result was this.
Alastair Macaulay finally slips behind The New York Times’ impending
pay-wall, never to be heard from again, it will be a relief not to
observe him blowing his pompous, out-of-tune horn about the state of the
art of ballet to a general readership that mostly lacks the knowledge needed
to weigh the value of what he says.
This past week his meandering gobbledygook with which he sought to devalue classic story ballets included:
The pure-dance sections, which provide a release from the acting and mime portions, slow down the narrative, putting a story ballet on pause for long periods. And the ballets that have pared away pure dance to maintain a constant narrative thrust have seldom achieved lasting popularity or classic status.
No examples, no evidence, and no substantiation are included because his complaints, and they definitely are complaints, are baseless and of a minority so small that they are inconsequential. Then, he starts drumming up alleged complaints from the 1700s:
Some of the complaints in the 18th century were just the same as those today: too much dancing or not enough; some stories make incomplete sense while others seem unsuited to dance; some star dancers are poor actors.
Could these complainants from the 1700s, who Macaulay believes were sufficiently numerous, authoritative or esteemed so as to have their assessments rekindled 300 years later in The New York Times, be identified? And who else is complaining today besides Macaulay, himself? Where are his editors?
Audiences regularly sit through a poverty of dance-narrative expression that they would never tolerate in a movie, a novel, an opera, a play or even a musical.
There are lots of awful movies, dreadful operas, stupid plays and worthless musicals that routinely sell out theaters. Macaulay may have missed The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy some years ago during which the soprano sang an aria in English that climaxed with an upper register squeal, “I’ve missed my period!” Talk about “poverty“ in narrative expression. But then, if Mark Morris could figure out a way to put that into steps, you can be sure Macaulay would applaud it - especially if it included a typical Morris episode of spanking or urinating.
The narratives and subtitles for many famous, enduring, universally praised operas border on the ridiculous, but that hasn’t stopped audiences from truly enjoying and appreciating the stories, the music, and the overall productions. Perhaps those audiences should be ashamed for having such low standards.
Going on –
I cringe at the sensationalism, the triteness and the ham that characterize the majority of story ballets, works like “Don Quixote,” “Le Corsaire” and “La Bayadère.”
Oh man, there he goes again picking on one of Haglund’s most favorite ballets, La Bayadere.
Let’s take this opportunity to say once again how the beautiful
Lanchbery orchestration stirs the soul and so perfectly conveys the
story’s sadness, hope and longing. Who can avoid getting misty-eyed
while listening to the cello when Nikiya dances for Solor and Gamzatti or
the winds in the exquisite Candle Dance or the strings in Gamzatti’s
Act III solo and her PdT with Solor and Nikiya?
La Bayadere has more than enough beautiful, universal storyline for the 30,000 or so people who see it each year when it’s part of ABT’s spring season. And Haglund certainly is not the only one who attends multiple performances of this classic because he can’t get enough of it.
So why doesn’t La Bayadere touch dance critic Alastair Macaulay and why does he “cringe“ at Don Quixote? Since he is about to disappear behind The New York Times’ pay-wall, never to be heard from again, we shouldn’t care. It’s his loss. His uber-serious ponderings about men wearing pointe shoes and same-sex PdDs is so-o-o-o New York Times - and nobody else. Oh, how readers “cringe at the sensationalism, the triteness and the ham that characterize” writing in The New York Times. Why, even Macaulay’s article, originally entitled “Story Ballets, Still Romantically Inclined” [go to his review here and then look at the tab of your browser page] was revised to “For Ballet, Plots Thicken, or Just Stick?" in order to add sensationalism, triteness and ham. Of course, it was hoped that readers would read that last word as Schtick.
Macaulay rarely writes about a problem in ballet that is a problem in anyone’s eyes but his own. It’s sad to see the newspaper waste space, expensive space, for such drivel. The paper wouldn’t tolerate a restaurant critic who panned every meat dish because he’s a vegetarian. It wouldn’t tolerate a home design writer who criticized antique Shaker furniture because of the sect’s tradition of separating the sexes. So why does it tolerate a dance critic who hates fundamental ballet classics?